According to B. F. Skinner (1904-1990), the behavior of an organism is a product of current and past environmental consequences and genetic endowment. Because little can be done, at least by psychology, about genetic endowment, Skinner focused on those things that could be changed or controlled: the immediate consequences of behavior. By consequences, Skinner meant the results or effects that a particular behavior (a class of responses, or "operant") produces. There are many ways to open a door, for example, but because each one allows a person to walk to the next room, one would speak of a "door-opening" operant. The consequences not only define the class of responses but also determine how often members of the class are likely to occur in the future. This was termed the Law of Effect by early twentieth century American psychologist Edward L. Thorndike, whose work Skinner refined.
Skinner analyzed behavior by examining the antecedents and consequences which control any specific class of responses in the individual organism. From this view, he elaborated a psychology that encompassed all aspects of animal and human behavior, including language. By the late 1970's, historians of psychology ranked Skinner's work as the second most significant development in psychology since World War II; the general growth of the field was ranked first. Three journals arose to publish work in the Skinnerian tradition: Journal ofthe Experimental Analysis ofBehavior, Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and Behaviorism. Moreover, an international orga nization, the Association for Behavior Analysis, was formed, with its own journal.
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